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New group forms to preserve La Jolla’s council District 1 in the face of redistricting

The current San Diego City Council District 1 is shown in yellow.
(Courtesy of San Diego Redistricting Commission)

A different proposal is to reconfigure District 1 by incorporating UC San Diego and Carmel Valley into District 6.

In preparation for the city of San Diego’s planned redrawing of its nine City Council districts, a group known as District 1 United has formed to advocate for keeping District 1, which includes La Jolla, as it is.

The redistricting process is done once every 10 years in accord with federal law and the city charter.

Redistricting Commissioner Roy MacPhail said the need for redistricting comes at the beginning of each decade to reflect movements in population. “Our task is to use 2020 Census data to evaluate the nine existing City Council districts and to redraw those boundary lines to make sure each district contains about one-ninth of our city’s population,” he said.

With San Diego’s population estimated at 1.54 million, that would mean about 171,000 people per council district. Commissioners are tentatively working with population estimates provided by the San Diego Association of Governments from 2019.

The U.S. Census Bureau has not yet released the exact data needed to determine population and redistrict accordingly. That information is expected in coming weeks.

District 1 United

Ahead of the formal redrawing of boundaries, District 1 United — described as an “informal coalition” of residents and representatives of community planning groups and environmental organizations throughout District 1 — started approaching local planning groups to try to garner support.

Citing the natural boundaries and ecological features such as the coast and canyons, group member Janie Emerson — who is president of the La Jolla Shores Association — said District 1 United “is really dedicated to not only community but to these shared, ecological, precious lands and how to best take care of them in the face of rampant development.”

Emerson called the redistricting process “the most important political process in our entire system because it will determine for the next 10 years who represents us on the City Council.” She said the beaches are “such an overused area and it is such a key economic area for the whole city and for the people that live here that we need maximum representation.”

On Sept. 13, District 1 United drafted a seven-page position paper to submit to commissioners, outlining the reasons the district should remain as is.

“The council District 1 communities have a 30-year history of working well together,” the letter reads. “They share common interests in coastal access, environmental protection, managed growth, outdoor recreational opportunities, cultural activities, world-class education and medical facilities, and dynamic economic enterprises that serve people throughout San Diego and the world. These communities have strong community planning groups that communicate well with each other, with local businesses, with developers and with the city, and which have overseen critical regional growth and infrastructure connectivity that benefits the whole region.”

Alternative proposals

One of the proposals to reconfigure District 1 is to create an “Asian empowerment district” by incorporating UC San Diego and Carmel Valley into District 6, which currently includes the Convoy District, which touts itself as “among the largest Pan-Asian business districts in the United States.”

Aidan Lin, a UCSD student and the Associated Students’ associate vice president of local affairs, spoke in favor of such a proposal at Redistricting Commission meetings in mid-August and Sept. 8.

He said the UCSD student body is “very diverse compared to the local communities” in terms of ethnicity and age, with large Asian, Pacific Islander and Latino communities and people from other parts of the world. “La Jolla is almost 80 percent white, and that differs drastically from the campus community,” Lin said.

Lin argued that the student body is underrepresented in the redistricting process and San Diego politics in general. Labeling students a “transient population” because many are not permanent residents is “a dangerous argument to make.”

“Some students come and stay for four years … and then leave the area. But there are some students that would like to stay in San Diego and give back to the city that helped them develop professionally and personally,” Lin said. “While students come and go, student issues will stay until they are addressed and resolved.”

A proposed map for City Council District 6, which would include UC San Diego.
(Courtesy of Neighborhood Voices San Diego)

On Sept. 8, Neighborhood Voices San Diego also presented in favor of moving UCSD to District 6. The group’s chairwoman, Debbie Discar-Espe, said it contracted a demographer to study ways to improve Asian American and Pacific Islander representation citywide and found that creating such a district would be a way to do that.

Demographer Fabian Valdez said there are high-density areas in Mira Mesa for Asian populations “which allows for drawing a compact Asian district much better than having them spread out all over the place.”

Another proposal suggests assimilating the northern part of District 2 — including Pacific Beach and Mission Beach — into District 1 to create a coastal district.

Emerson alleged that is intended to reduce the number of City Council members representing the coastal communities, which would make it easier to outvote them on issues such as short-term vacation rentals. Coastal communities typically have more of those rentals and have sought stricter regulations than those in inland communities.

“Anyone who knows anything about Bird Rock, Mission Beach and Ocean Beach knows that we don’t all have the same issues,” Emerson said. “We also feel, and the consensus is from those in District 2 and District 4, that having two council members representing the beach communities is critical.”

Local review

As the proposals surfaced, District 1 United started making its presence known at community group meetings. Many of them voted to support its efforts.

The La Jolla Community Planning Association voted Sept. 2 to send a letter to the Redistricting Commission in favor of keeping District 1’s current boundaries and announced its support of District 1 United.

The letter cites the “strong planning boards and town councils” in the District 1 communities and how having different transportation corridors “in one district is critical to effective planning.” It also notes shared watershed issues in District 1 communities, natural boundaries and more.

At the Sept. 7 Bird Rock Community Council meeting, board members noted that a small portion of Bird Rock is technically in District 2.

“I think we would like to get that back into District 1,” BRCC member Barbara Dunbar said. “It’s really important to have a single representative for all of La Jolla and certainly all of Bird Rock.”

BRCC President John Newsam conducted a straw poll of those in attendance who wanted to stay in District 1 and move all of Bird Rock to District 1. It was supported unanimously.

The La Jolla Shores Association voted unanimously Sept. 8 to send the Redistricting Commission a letter in support of District 1 United and keeping the district as is.

In coming months, a preliminary map will be drawn based on early feedback, and follow-up meetings will be scheduled for additional refinement. The final map must be submitted by Dec. 15.

To submit comments on the redistricting process, email redistricting2020@sandiego.gov or visit sandiego.gov/redistricting-commission.